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Domingo Germán’s return brings possibilities for the Yankees’ staff

Germán will return to the staff soon, and he still has a role to play.

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

There’s only one week before the All-Star break, and the Yankees hold a 61-24 record, by far and away the best in baseball, and good for a 15-game lead on the division. One of the biggest factors for this tremendous first half has been the outstanding production from the rotation, and the health of all its members.

Out of the 85 games the Yankees have played so far in 2022, only four have been started by someone not named Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes, or Jameson Taillon. The five members of the Yankees rotation have been the picture of health, and with all five of them pitching well (despite the occasional recent struggles), the results as a whole have been tremendous.

The old adage in baseball is that you can never have enough pitching depth, though. Plus, no matter how carefully you manage each player’s health, this level of continuity is virtually unsustainable over a 162-game season.

It’s impossible to predict what kind of health awaits the Yankees in the second half, but in a league where you must prepare for every possibility, manager Aaron Boone has a reinforcement coming for the second half, even before any move is made at the trade deadline.

Domingo Germán recently made his fourth rehab start of 2022, and his first up with the Triple-A team. He’s been out since spring training with a right shoulder impediment, but is working his way back. His last outing on Saturday night was his best: one-hit shutout ball with no walks, a hit by pitch, and four strikeouts.

The way the Yankees are bringing Germán back says loads about contingencies and keeping your options open. As of right now, Germán wouldn’t have a spot in the Yankees rotation, but he’s being brought back along as a starter, even though he’s likely to pitch out of the ‘pen upon his return.

Luis Gil is out for the year with Tommy John surgery, and although JP Sears did a fine job when called upon, the Yankees don’t have many clear depth options with solid major league experience as a starter, in case an injury were to happen with one of the rotation members.

Germán is most likely going to be that guy for a spot start when needed, and as the unofficial sixth man in the rotation. Over his last two seasons in the big leagues (2019 & 2021), Germán pitched to a 102 ERA+, roughly league average, and with a 1.16 WHIP. Those numbers are far from spectacular, but they’re completely adequate for the role he’ll be asked to fill.

However, before Germán makes a start, he seems ticketed to return in a multi-inning role out of the bullpen. The Yankees planned for Michael King work along these lines before the year, but with Jonathan Loáisiga and Aroldis Chapman down, King pitched his way into a bigger role as the Yankees’ primary setup man to new closer Clay Holmes.

It’s been a while since King has taken on a different role, and in the meantime, Clarke Schmidt served a bit as a multi-inning option and even Manny Bañuelos for a short period. Right now, that role is more or less open, and Germán can be the right guy for the job.

Opposing hitters had a 42-percent whiff rate on Germán’s curveball in 2021, and although he only used his sinker 15 percent of the time, it produced a tremendous O-Swing percentage of 43.5. Both of these marks are well above league average, and one of the best signs for a sinker is that batters are swinging it at even when it is outside the zone. That could be a pitch to explore in a role in the bullpen.

Germán might have further rehab appearances in store, but since Boone has said that he “could” be activated before the All-Star break, his return feels imminent. His stuff should play up in a bullpen role, and at a time when the Yankees could use a reliable reliever to go multiple innings, he may return just in time.